When Praise and Worship Felt Fake

elevation
This photo is from Elevation Worship.

I grew up seeing church people freely dance, shout, clap and raise their hands while singing Christian songs in church. I’ve heard a lot of reactions from people with different religions. “I was shocked because I wasn’t expecting a live band,” I heard my friend said who is raised Catholic and is used to solemn Christian music. He was pertaining to our worship team with complete musical instruments include drums, guitars and keyboard. “It’s like a cult. They raise their hands and they murmur weird sounds simultaneously. It’s absurd,” some say. Others tell that born again Christians are insane because they notice that such people aren’t ashamed to express emotion like jumping with joy and shedding tears during praise and worship service. I’ve belonged to a born again Christian family since birth so this kind of church activity isn’t new to me but I tried to put my feet in the shoes of first timer attendees with dissimilar beliefs. I can imagine that they may feel self-conscious with their gestures. They may likely to clap awkwardly and reluctantly not to appear out-of-place with the crowd and they might lift their hands only if asked by the worship leader or a pastor. They may verbalize, “I’m not comfortable,” and decide not to come back again. I understand their comments and also understand the nature of our church service. I am one of the ‘crazy’ Christians who aren’t embarrassed to show emotions while singing. I clap my hands till my palms turn red and sing out loud till my throat hurts. I lift my hands high like I can touch the heaven and my eyes are often misty.

One time, everything seemed weird. I found myself in the midst of singing crowd. The worship leader was out of tune and the back up worshippers were staring blankly at the sheet of paper. The sound of drums were too loud I could barely hear the sound of keyboard. I felt like something was wrong. What were these people thinking as they were raising their hands? Were they doing it out of habit or pressure? Some appeared bored. Others looked like they were just obliged. Was this practice really a cult? Was this how a cult functioned? The way they were swaying their bodies and twisting their heads erratically were urging me to cringe. Was God pleased seeing us like this? I questioned all that I was seeing and I was standing still, stiff, uneasy, and unwilling to move. Was I deluding myself into thinking that this was how genuine Christians were expected to act? The worship leader was a snob before and she was praying like a total saint here. She was singing with eyes shut but I saw her rolled her eyes at me last week. All of a sudden the whole scene felt fake. My hands were too heavy to clap or raise. My eyes wandered every corner of the room like this was some kind of a joke. I couldn’t hear my own voice or someone’s voice next to me because the music was too loud it sounded like a noise. I couldn’t wait to sit down because my knees were sore. I wasn’t enjoying anymore unlike the good old times and I doubted if these people were enjoying too. The next song wasn’t a great choice because its melody was impossible to learn or was it because the musical instruments weren’t synchronized? Lord, if I didn’t dance and sing with them does it mean I don’t love you anymore? I thought. But You see my heart, God and You know that I have adored You since I have accepted You as my Lord and savior. Why do I feel like this? Am I turning away from You? My mind was troubled and images of food flashed in my memory and I was in the church but my heart was at home eating egg pie and melon shake. A song of Elevation Worship snapped me back to reality. I wasn’t like this before because the last time I remember I didn’t want to stop singing. I was ecstatic then. I closed my eyes now because I was distracted by colorful lights which resembled disco lights in the club which was odd because church must occur holy. Lord, show me the truth, I started to pray though everything was a distraction to me. Were You really here in this place or was everything futile? Words from scriptures flashed in my mind.

Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. -Psalm 150:1-5 NIV

The music was escalating.

I need you to soften my heart and break me apart

I need you to open my eyes and see that you’re shaping my life

I wanted to focus on the song and taste every word of its lyrics and my lips slowly curved into a smile for it was sweet. My tense muscles begun to calm as the beautiful music filled the atmosphere. The truthfulness and sincerity of the lyrics soothed my heart and I started to feel at ease as though a heavy load within was pulled out. Every beat of drum, every strum of guitar, every singing voice was now making sense. I kept my eyes closed as I opened my heart to discern the truth because my heart could see what eyes couldn’t. My eyes see what is visible on the outside but a heart sees what is beyond. Are You here, Lord? I opened my mouth to sing my prayer to Him.

Give me faith to trust what you say

I was singing along on top of my lungs and allowing my skepticism evanesced. If it was fake then why my heart and soul were now convinced that it was right? I was owning the music like a personal message to God. Lord, give me faith because there were many things I liked to doubt. Teach me to trust in You. Remind me of Your goodness and love.

Give me faith to trust what you say that You’re good and Your love is great

All the great things God has done and has given to me instantly ran through my mind and my heart was completely overwhelmed with delight.

I’m broken inside I’ll give you my life

I was broken and He made me whole and my heart might be broken again and again and He will not stop picking up the broken pieces of me and create something beautiful out of it. I heard everybody was singing in unison. I heard everybody was crying out to Him. I heard everybody was making sounds of praises. They felt it too! I wasn’t alone. These people were as broken as me but God also made them new. These people understood the pain of life and the happiness in Christ. These people love God as I love Him. I opened my eyes and everything I saw was spectacular. I felt like I was in a heavenly party and everyone was having a great time of their lives. We were passionately singing in harmony. These people were bold in their faith. These people were sinners but God changed their hearts. These fellows were the people I love to spend eternity with.

I may be weak but Your spirit is strong in me

My flesh may fail but my God You never will

I glanced at the worship leader and instantly desired to be like her. I wanted to sing for God. I wanted others to know that I was singing to God so that others would be encouraged to sing. I wanted to please God with my music like what she was doing. I couldn’t see anything in her but passion for Jesus. She was unashamed to be out of tune. She sang with confidence and grace.

All I am I surrender

With eyes shut I look into myself and I was reminded of my flaws and ugliness. Do You see the scars of my heart, Lord? This is all I am, this is all I’ve got. Will You still accept me and love me? My soul was rejoicing because I knew His answer all along. I felt this place was where I belong and this was the truest thing that happened in my life. The next thing I knew was my hands were lifted high in total surrender.

All I am I surrender

This was not insanity because insanity means irrationality. But worshiping and praising God reminds me of the most logical thing in this world: I am a child of God. I am not a piece of crap that stinks. I have a God, a good and merciful Father who knows me more than I know myself. Insanity is a condition of losing sense of reality. But only the heart can see rightly. My mind would persuade me that all was fake and I could criticize and doubt the genuineness of every living soul and went home tired and restless. But when I started to close my eyes and listen to my soul. My soul was yearning for the existence of its Maker. I couldn’t deny the longing in my heart that only my Creator can satisfy. When I began to open my heart and soul, everything looked perfect. Everything occurred marvelous I wanted to holler my thanksgiving, my praise, my worship. Insanity is a state of being sick. But worshiping and praising God refresh my soul. The heavy burden in me is lifted up as I lift my hands to God. I feel healing. I find refuge. No drug can cure a weak spirit. No medicine can cure a weak soul. But only the One who made it.

This is the song, Give Me Faith by Elevation Worship.

 

Tired of Working for a Living

PicsArt_05-25-06.04.04This is my fifth week of working in graveyard shift for twelve hours a day. I’m not complaining, just giving you an idea of what I’ve been up to lately. I am sometimes light headed when I reach home after work, around ten in the morning and I can’t do anything but crawl into bed and shut my eyes. My body is as vulnerable as a tiny slipper that gets worn out after twelve hours of walking in a rough and muddy road. Sleeping is like a precious gem to me, rare and valuable because it is certainly a blessing if I can manage to sleep in the day for straight four hours uninterrupted by harsh rays of sun or growling stomach without lunch or sometimes breakfast too. Sleeping is also like a clean water, necessary for survival because I’m not a fictional superhero with super resilience and though sometimes I think I’m strong enough but my weak and scrawny physique always betrays me. My weight can’t help but decrease.

I put my earphones on while I was headed to work and I randomly chose a song in my phone. The lyrics went on…

Nothing else matters,
Nothing in this world will do
‘Cause Jesus You’re the center,
Everything revolves around You
Jesus You,
At the center of it all

I was astonished. I heard that song for a thousand times before but at that moment the lyrics hit home. It seemed like I was doing a tough school project for many nights and days. I earned eye bags, gastric ulcer and malnourished body for the sake of the project which was impossible to perfect. Then one day before the deadline came my teacher said, “Who told you that there’s a required project? No need. I already gave you perfect score.” I froze in disbelief and I wanted to shout because I couldn’t contain myself. It felt like I was planning to have a plastic surgery on my face and body because I thought nobody would love me because I was hideous. I was also extremely fearful and anxious about knives but the longing for someone who can adore and value me was stronger than the horrible cuts of blades. But before the procedure a handsome man brought me flowers in my house and told me, “I need to tell you this before it’s too late. Please don’t alter any single part of your body because I love you for who you are.” I was close to tears because of relief and overwhelming bliss. This kind of emotion was the same thing I felt when I heard the song ‘Jesus At The Center’ by Israel and New Breed. I was often thinking about money for the past few months. Money was my reason for enduring sleepless nights. We are all working hard for money, aren’t we? When I was too ill to get up and continue my life I would stare at my passbook and I could muster enough strength to go on. The list of the things I want to purchase was my motivation to work hard even though I was weary and unhappy. I was thinking that those commodities would satisfy and comfort me. Then all of a sudden, I heard a beautiful music saying, “Nothing else matters. Nothing in this world will do. Nothing, nothing else matters. Your money doesn’t matter. Your latest gadget doesn’t matter. Your brand new car doesn’t matter. Your trendy shoes don’t matter. Your bank account doesn’t matter.” My heart cried not because of disappointment but because of solace. I thought earning more money could make me happy and content but I ended up more and more tired and devastated. If money would make me happy then why do I feel like I’m drowning in the deep abyss of misery? I realized that focusing so much on material possession caused me to neglect the most important thing which is eternal. “Cause Jesus You’re the center. Everything revolves around You. Jesus You at the center of it all.” I can’t remember when was the last time I earnestly read the Bible. Nowadays I find it hard to concentrate when I am praying because the world is such a busy place. Wealth is essential in the world but I forgot that when I die everything else that I see now doesn’t matter.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. -Matthew 11:28-30 NLT

The above verses are crystal clear to me. I was tired of working for twelve hours a day and six times a week to earn a living, to build my dream home and to buy the latest DSLR cameras. I can’t just stop working but God put in my heart now and in your hearts as well that these things are not the main reason why we are breathing. We are living for eternity. We are more than this. We are entitled for something more. We are living in this world but we are citizens of heaven.

This song is the message of God to us today:

4 Life Changing Lessons I Learned in 2016

IMG_20170101_080516_866[1].jpgGoodbye 2016 and I’m saying hello to 2017 with enthusiasm, unceasing faith and full of hope. Fear and anxiety are enemies to conquer but our God is always the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He always reminds us to be fearless and to be joyful in every circumstance. So let’s celebrate new beginnings and new opportunities as we bear in mind the lessons 2016 taught us. I would share with you my top lessons learned and I would like to hear yours as well.

1. Don’t let anyone’s criticism and judgment define who you are. Find and embrace your true identity in Christ. This is really a life changing for me because as I wrote on my previous blog post On The Mind of a Self-proclaimed Ugly, I grew up hearing criticisms and negative judgment about me that influenced how I perceived myself. I am never embarrassed to say that I was battling with insecurity and low self-esteem because God helped me overcome it. We are not defined by the mistakes that we made in the past, the physical attributes that other people see us, the money we have in our pocket, the family we grew up with, the ailments that impede us, our weaknesses and failures. You are beautiful because God created you in His image. You are His masterpiece, the apple of His eye, dearly loved and blessed. Those things had no huge impact on me before because I was skeptic. I was conforming to the world’s definition of beauty. I was blinded by glamorous faces with false eye lashes and perfect curves in pretty skirt and high heels. I’m living in the world where people treat the wealthy with so much respect and adoration while the poor is maltreated and discriminated. In this modern times, people became obsessed with compliments by posting too much on social media to boost their ego by the praises they can get. I wasn’t happy. We are not born to please this world. I realized that we are not created to become pleasing in the sight of handsome men who will only break our hearts. We are created for God and let Him define our real identity.

 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. -Ephesians 2:10 NLT

2. God is real no matter what you feel. There were times when I felt like God was so far away that I couldn’t even feel Him. They say some Christians’ faith becomes so intense and the other day that heat subsides. So you always have to keep that fire burning by constantly reminding yourself about God’s promises. The truth is there are plenty of distractions that lure us away from His presence. The temporary enjoyment that feels like heaven. But always remember that heaven God has promised is not temporary. I love the song Your Promises by Elevation Worship. The chorus goes like this, Doesn’t matter what I feel, doesn’t matter what I see. My hope will always be in Your promises to me. Now I’m casting out all fear for Your love has set me free. My hope will always be in Your promises to me.

I have learned that my feelings and emotions are temporary. Sometimes I do forget to pray and to pause for a while in the midst of busyness and fatigue. Sometimes we feel that God is just an idea we flesh out in our mind to save us from the abyss of misery. We doubt His presence when problems kick in or we become oblivious to God’s existence when we feel that everything is perfect. The past year taught me that my feelings are short-term but God is eternal, infinite. He is as real as the air that you breathe which is unseen, as real as the rays of the sun that warms the earth which is intangible, as real as the empty holes in our hearts that long to be filled which is unnoticed. God is real.

3. Accepting each other’s differences is the start of learning to love others. I wrote When is a Time to Hate and a Time to Love? in my previous post after the time I was struggling to love others the way God expects us to do. I learned to accept that others might have points of view and reactions which are different from mine because everybody has his or her own share of personal experiences that molded us into who we are today. When someone contradicts me because he or she has dissimilar idea, instead of hating and bashing that person I must remind myself that he or she also has her or his own opinion that matters. He or she might sound illogical and ridiculous but God also loves him or her the way He loves you. It’s not as simple as that, I know, but I keep on learning.

4. Private life is a happy life. Yes, I still post on social media especially on Instagram but I choose carefully which to post. I realized that I became happier when I protect myself from gossips and judgments by others based on my social media posts. I learned the value of privacy when it comes to my relationship. When your personal life is on display, you’ll get defensive. When you post arguments that you had with your partner, you’re betraying him or her. We can’t trust everyone. Save ourselves from invaders because it’s not their business and value the relationship more by not seeking validation from the world but from God.

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. -Proverbs 26:20 NIV